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From eBay to OnlyFans, Trump’s anti-sex internet crusade silences LGBTQ culture




In August, OnlyFans, a website known almost entirely for selling nudes, said it would no longer host sexually explicit material. The jokes on Twitter likened the switch to a grocery store banning groceries, and bidet brand Tushy falsely announced that it would follow OnlyFans’ lead by halting sales of its key product. The Risqu website reversed its decision less than a week later.

onlyfans banning porn its like the grocery store banning groceries I’m actually so confused

Adam JK (@adamjk) August 19, 2021

This is good news for those of us who have become accustomed to websites banning and banning consensual adult sex. The online world is still struggling to clean up to comply with a federal bill that President Donald Trump enacted in 2018, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act.

As the OnlyFans debacle highlights, the fight to supposedly make the internet a safer place has a series of side impacts. In particular, it has a silencing effect on key aspects of LGBTQ culture. But that’s great for anti-LGBTQ groups who have lobbied Congress to crack down on OnlyFans and sexuality in general.

On August 10, more than 100 conservative-leaning members of Congress wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking them to investigate OnlyFans. Alleging the sexual exploitation of children, lawmakers cited research from an anti-LGBTQ group called the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Formerly known as Morality in Media, the group boycotted Disney for extending benefits to its employees’ same-sex partners and called for a boycott of Time Warner after the release of the book Sex de Madonnas in 1992, which the group described as sick and violent pornography. Its president, Patrick A. Trueman, previously headed the American Family Association, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has named as a hate group for its long-standing anti-LGBTQ views and campaigns.

NCOSE’s board of directors includes former Defending Freedom Alliance chairman Alan Sears, whose 2003 book “The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today” hardly needs further explanation. NCOSE publishes an annual Dirty Dozen List of what it calls major contributors to sexual exploitation; Netflix, Amazon, and Google Chromebook are all listed alongside OnlyFans this year.

NCOSE isn’t the only group lobbying corporate and government interests to stamp out sexual content, but it is arguably the leader in the field, having denounced public manifestations of sexuality since 1962 and spending 5 , $ 1 million to do so in 2020.

Another major player in the anti-porn wars, Exodus Cry, has similar roots in anti-LGBTQ sentiment: its founder called homosexuality immoral and toxic. Both groups declared victory after signing FOSTA-SESTA, with NCOSE thanking supporters for reaching out to their elected officials to lobby for the law.

I am not going to discuss whether or not there is Internet sex trafficking. But many groups leading the charge against him have other goals, and their unique attempts to protect the internet from traffickers end up not only fooling well-meaning supporters, but also threatening the incomes of already marginalized workers and workers. engulfing entire communities in a devouring mouth of fundamentalist and anti-sex Christian censorship.

Their unique attempts to protect the internet from traffickers end up not only fooling well-meaning supporters, but also threatening the incomes of already marginalized workers.

These changes may seem trivial. In May, eBay announced it would close its adult category and ban the sale of sexual material. The impact on the low-risk LGBTQ historical archives has been swift and devastating.

In August, The New Yorker spoke to queer historians about how the ban eradicated a market for materials, from concept art to gay leather magazine Drummer, on which even museums depend for their acquisitions. The drummer featured plenty of shirtless men on his covers, but he also included important information for the leather community. And underlining the seemingly arbitrary nature of this ban, the iconic female erotic magazine On Our Backs has been somewhat spared.

Meanwhile, FOSTA-SESTA forced a queer comic book artist to cancel the publication of her own book (in which a sex worker was interviewed) because she feared being accused of sex trafficking. “We already face significant hurdles in advertising due to the tendency in mainstream societies to view LGBT people as inherently sexual, regardless of the heat level,” romantic writer Katie de Long told Rolling Stone. in 2018. “It will only get worse with policies that simply say mentioning terms related to our sexuality or our identities can get us banned.”

The impact of FOSTA-SESTA has also had a silencing effect on sex educators, a vital resource for the many LGBTQ youth across the country who do not receive any information in school about their sexuality and gender identity. Of the 50 states in the United States, only a handful require that school-based sex education include LGBTQ people. In most of the United States, gay and trans youth are asked to ask questions about identity and gender on internet search bars and social media accounts. These questions often have life-changing implications, whether the answers are aimed at preventing sexually transmitted infections or simply feeling less isolated and less weird about your desires.


While not necessarily related to FOSTA-SESTA, queer and trans social media users have complained about censorship of terms of identity on platforms due to their proximity to porn, among other things. In 2017, Twitter was criticized for blocking the word bisexual, claiming at the time that it had been added to a list of terms commonly associated with adult content.

Earlier this year, TikTok users complained that terms like intersex and lesbian were being banned from the shadows; searches for the words did not return any results, and lesbian users launched the tongue-in-cheek hashtag the $ bean after discovering that content with the #lesbian hashtag was frequently deleted. Both platforms have apologized or said the issues were mistakes, but the ever-evolving content moderation policies seem to regularly target the LGBTQ community: in 2019, feminist magazine Salty was banned from advertising its latest cover featuring several fully dressed trans women in color because Instagram’s algorithm mistakenly flagged it as an advertisement for an escort service.

Prompt action by the platforms to remedy such missteps is important, but don’t answer the question of why it keeps happening because it doesn’t seem to have stopped. This week, popular queer TikTok star @therealclaybaby posted a video on Instagram complaining that he has been repeatedly blocked from accessing his account for violating community guidelines regarding sexual activity.

The Texas-based creator is known for his messy streak, irreverent rants, and improvised raps, but the adult nudity and sexual activity he’s been reported for doesn’t show up on the account. It’s not clear whether it’s flagged by homophobic viewers or just flagged by some flawed algorithm, but in any case, creators’ income from sponsored posts has been threatened. To say that it’s frustrating for queer and trans people to be automatically associated with pornography just by existing would be an understatement.

This type of algorithmic bias has a similar effect to platforms that ban LGBTQ content under restrictive adult bans to comply with FOSTA-SESTA: both reducing speech and preventing entire communities from being able to connect. in line. Few of us can say that they have never deleted a post, or that an entire account has been temporarily or permanently disabled because we used a self-describing LGBTQ term (such as dam) in a post or a caption, or because something we posted was deemed inappropriate for some mysterious reason.

The great irony is that many of the content rules that silence LGBTQ expression online may have been put in place to protect us from harassment, much like the rules that deexualize the internet claim to protect us from abuse. And as anti-sex panic continues to sweep online spaces, it’s only natural that gays will expect our very existence to continue to be mistaken for pornography by algorithms and whoever oversees the task. divine to create keyword lists.


In GLAAD’s new Social Media Safety Index, the first report to measure the online safety of LGBTQ people, algorithmic bias is only a small part of a report that largely monitors hate speech. But just as lawmakers need to better distinguish between sex trafficking and healthy, consensual human sexuality, platforms need to better distinguish between hate speech and pride speech.

There is no comparison between an underage girl getting ripped off by a trafficker and a barista trying to get hired by posting sexy videos on sites like OnlyFans. And there’s a huge gulf between a young lesbian using the #dyke hashtag to connect with friends and the vitriolic hate slurs used to terrorize and harass someone. Yes, training algorithms to find this difference is a challenge. But if he manages to control queer and trans users at current levels, he can surely learn our language as well.




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